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  • Living in Thailand Blog July 2014


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Living In Thailand Blog


Wednesday 30th July 2014

Thais have an amazing ability to add insult to injury and rub some salt in the wounds. After the immense inconvenience of not having any water for a week and the physical effort of having to manually fill our water tank with around 2,000 litres of water, I was then presented with a bill for Bt4,500.

They have changed from well water to mains water and part of this change was to install water meters so that individual residences could be billed for water usage. I was aware of this, but not aware that I would have to pay for the water meter myself.

In the UK I never had to pay for meters because the utility companies provided them free of charge. In Thailand you pay for everything, whether you want it or not.

I was not best pleased when my wife gave me this news, and my neighbours aren't pleased either. This amount of money may not be a lot in developed countries, but in Thailand it represents a big proportion of the average monthly wage.

I know from experience that complaining to an underling is a complete waste of time in Thailand. However angry you are, they just smile and hold out their hand waiting for the money. While handing over my money today I decided on sarcasm instead of anger. Thais have great difficulty reading farangs and they certainly have no clue when farangs are being sarcastic.

I asked the woman why it was so cheap and asked if I could pay more. She told me, "Mai bpen rai," and said that most people had actually been complaining that it was too expensive.

My wife reckons that my warped sense of humour could backfire on me and that they will give me another bill to make me happier. We shall see.

I did a day trip to Bangkok on Monday with my little girl. I got up at 5:40am, carried my daughter around Bangkok all day (including Dusit Zoo, which we visited after her hospital appointment) and returned home at 9:30pm. It was a long exhausting day and my body still hadn't recovered from carrying so much water just before we went. My body still aches all over.

I was really dreading travelling with Air Asia, but they seem to have improved quite a lot since my last flight with them 10 years ago. The biggest problem was always reliability, but on this trip I flew both ways on fairly new Airbus A320-200's and there were no delays. These new planes seem to have improved Air Asia's reliability problems considerably.

The journey didn't get off to a great start. The plane arriving from Bangkok that would form our flight still hadn't arrived 30 minutes before our plane was due to leave. A notice then appeared that the flight had been cancelled. "Same old Air Asia," I thought to myself. However, they asked passengers to change gates and there was another plane ready. We left on time.

The worst thing about the flight was the seat. The back rest was set at 90°, there was no lumbar support, and it gave me instant backache. The flight to Bangkok (just over an hour) was just about bearable, but no longer than that.

The seat pitch couldn't have been any less without my face actually touching the seat in front. As it was, the seat in front was about six inches in front of me and it was extremely claustrophobic. Asian people, many of whom tend to be smaller than Westerners, may be OK. I'm not particularly tall for a farang (5' 11"), but nonetheless it was very uncomfortable.

I have worked with 300 pound Americans in the past who would find it physically impossible to sit in such a seat. If you are over six feet and built quite solidly I would not advise flying with Air Asia.

For the flight back I checked in very early and explained that I was carrying a young child who was wearing full length plaster casts on both legs. The check-in girl assigned me a seat in row 1, which is a premium seat and usually charged for. She did this for free and it was a very nice gesture. Thank you Air Asia.

As I was travelling with a young child and had to be on time for hospital appointments I was dreading being delayed, but on this occasion Air Asia did a good job. The uncomfortable seats are a consequence of them choosing a seating configuration that allows them to carry the maximum number of passengers. This is a common practice with budget airlines.

I will be returning to Bangkok again next month and despite having an acceptable experience flying with Air Asia I will be using my favoured Nok Air again.

I spent some time today looking at a Thai Visa post about more new immigration rules. I only visit this site when someone sends me a link about something specific and never usually bother with Thai Visa. Whenever I start to read the comments on their posts it reminds me why I don't bother.

Thai Visa is populated with lots of doom and gloom merchants and by the time I've been through a few pages of a post and read about how many foreigners in Thailand are now just about to leave the country because it is getting so bad I start to get depressed myself.

Basically, since the military government took over there has been a push to enforce existing laws and there has been a crackdown on criminal activity in the country. There is nothing wrong with this.

I have known farangs who were definitely living and working in Thailand illegally, and with others I was 99% sure. Having a crackdown on illegal aliens and overstayers is no big deal.

It has always been a requirement for foreigners to carry a copy of their passports at all times. I did this for the first year, but it soon became apparent that I would never be asked to show it. I still haven't after 11 years.

A Thai driving licence will suffice for ID purposes and I always have my Thai driving licence on me. Every car park I use asks to see the driver's ID or driving licence and the security guard scans it into the CCTV. All Thais have to carry their national ID card at all times and there is no reason why foreigners in the country should be exempted. This also is no big deal.

What was more concerning was reading that people like myself, who live in Thailand perfectly legitimately, must report to the local police station or immigration office if they visit another province in Thailand for more than 48 hours.

This is absolutely ridiculous and smacks of North Korea or pre-cold war USSR or East Germany. I'm not quite sure what the thinking is behind this immigration requirement or how practical it will be to enforce.

If foreigners staying illegally thought they could hide, there are other requirements obliging landlords to report the presence of farangs. Hotels in Thailand always ask foreigners for a passport, whether they are a tourist or an expat, and the hotel reports its guest to immigration. Apparently, this is done on-line.

While staying in Ranong on one occasion the receptionist at the hotel where I stayed went through my passport with a fine tooth comb and starting asking questions. Ranong is where a lot of foreigners staying in Phuket go to do their visa runs.

My suspicion was that the receptionist was looking for overstayers and reported any to immigration. If immigration arrested and fined foreigners as a result of the tip off I guess he received some commission. I can't think of any other reason why a hotel receptionist would be so interested in a foreigner's passport.

If you overstay in Thailand and this is only discovered at the border when you leave the country you simply receive a fine. However, if you overstay and are caught in Thailand before you get to the border - even if only for a day - the consequences can be quite severe.

I'm not panicking or threatening to leave Thailand for Cambodia or Central America (as many Thai Visa posters are doing), but some of these new regulations are a little concerning and it makes me wonder what is coming next.

In my situation I can't simply leave my family and it would be difficult relocating them to another country. Anyway, I will cross bridges as I come to them and it is a waste of mental energy worrying about things that will probably never happen.

If I was doing something illegal, or borderline illegal, in order to live in Thailand I would be worried about all these new immigration requirements. However, my policy has always been to follow Thai laws and do things by the book.

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Thursday 24th July 2014

I have aches where I didn't realise there were even any muscles. Yesterday was going to be an easy day, but that wasn't how it turned out. The laundry situation was getting dire and the garden was as dry as a bone. There has been no rain since the waterworks started and it has been very hot again.

In order to run the washing machine a couple of times and water the garden I fetched another 840 litres of water from the standpipe. However, the water supply came back late yesterday and filled the tank. I am hoping now that I won't have to fetch any more water.

A reader from Malaysia sent me an e-mail. He is knowledgeable regarding the construction industry and also fishponds. Previously, he helped me to fix an algae problem in my pond and he has just given me more good advice and information regarding my pond.

"In your last posting regarding City Council water supply, I'm very surprised that your housing community uses water pumped from aquifers and lakes. This method can be very dangerous as the water is not treated and chlorinated and could harvest bacteria if stored too long. It could also be a mosquito breeding hotspot.

The reason why it's alright to use them in its natural way is because you may have other living things feeding on each other in a balanced ecosystem. When the water is pumped out of its natural state, it can't stay 'fresh' for too long. Part of the reason that they are connecting to the mains could also be due to new regulations and guidelines for the city."

He could be perfectly correct. There may indeed be very good reasons why they have made this change. However, I don't know because no one has told me anything.

I'm not very happy about how the change was made and losing my water supply for a week, and at least one neighbour is furious, but my biggest gripe of all is the complete and utter lack of any communication.

Maaka-boochaa day in Thailand commemorates an event in the Buddha's lifetime when 1,250 Buddhist devotees arrived spontaneously to pay homage to the Lord Buddha without any prior notification or appointment.

The water authority workers who arrived to do this work did not arrive spontaneously.

Someone arranged for this to happen. That same person could easily have given a brief document to all of the residents explaining what was about to happen, why it was being done, how long it would take, what provisions were being made to supply people with water, what the benefits would be, and if there were any implications - for example, people keeping fish, etc.

Had I known beforehand, I would have been a lot better prepared. I only knew something was happening when workers started to dig up the road and I only knew that my water supply would be cut off when my water tank stopped refilling.

In my old life I used to maintain computer systems for large banks in the City of London. Had I pulled a stunt like this and carried out a big system upgrade without telling anyone, resulting in people not being able to work for a week, I would have been hung, drawn and quartered ... and then sacked.

It may seem unbelievable that anyone would have their water supply cut off for a week without being told, but this kind of thing isn't unheard of in Thailand.

In the past week, all conversations with my neighbours have been about the lack of water. While discussing this subject with a neighbour a couple of days ago she also mentioned that she had just found a baby cobra in the house. It gave her a fright and she told me to be extra careful with the children.

Since moving to this house at the end of 2012 I have heard lots of reports about snake sightings in the development (cobras and even king cobras), but all I have seen myself is a baby snake of an identified species and a skin that had been shed.

That was until tonight.

The development is closed and there is no through traffic. Phase 2 of the development has roads, but there are no people living there yet. I take advantage of this and quite often put my daughter on the motorbike to have a little drive around in the evening. I would never take her on the bike on public roads in Thailand.

As we were driving along this evening I spotted a cobra in the road ahead of us. It was about 6pm and still light. The snake was about five feet long. As it heard us approach, it slithered through the hole in a storm drain cover. Its head then appeared through the same hole as it flicked its tongue to smell the air.

Normally I carry a camera with me to record things like this, but tonight my camera was at home.

I love animals, but I always experience a strange sensation throughout my entire body whenever I encounter a snake. I hope that as more people move into the development and it gets busier, the snakes will leave.

In some ways I feel sorry for them because they were here first, but I have no desire to live alongside any animal that poses such a great danger to life.

Do four-year-olds need a graduation ceremony?

Hairdressers - Click for larger image This story reminded me of the time my previous Thai girlfriend went off to do a hair cutting course.

The course was about three months long and when it finished the students hired graduation gowns and mortar boards and attended an official graduation ceremony as if they were graduating from Cambridge or Harvard.

I went along and found it all very surreal. They were pleasant girls, but without wishing to sound too unkind, they weren't the sharpest knives in the box.

As soon as I arrived in Thailand I started to notice lots of photos of young Thais in graduation attire. Ah, I thought, the people here must be very highly educated.

One of the first girls I got involved with had a laundry shop. I visited her shop one day and in the shop was her degree and a picture of her graduating. I was confused. Why, I thought, is a university graduate washing other people's underwear? Why can't graduates who have been studying English for 15 years speak any English?

After that I realised that a degree is the minimum qualification in Thailand for most kinds of job. I took my wife to a hotel in Krabi before we were married and then looked at the hotel website. In the job vacancies section was a job description for a room maid - it involved vacuuming and changing beds, etc. Applicants needed a degree.

Hairdressers - Click for larger image When I left school in the 1970's there were lots of jobs on offer with the world's biggest and best companies for which a degree wasn't necessary. The world has changed now, but it was very different 30-40 years ago.

I didn't go to university but did a four year course called an HNC for my tertiary education. It is (was?) a widely recognised and respected qualification in the UK because it involves a lot of practical training in addition to academic knowledge. In Thailand it carries about the same weight as the 50m breaststroke certificate I was awarded at junior school.

As a result, I am now unemployable in Thailand. It makes no difference to me because I have no desire to get a job in Thailand, but it amuses me somewhat that as a person with a fairly good English education and 19 years' real world experience with the most successful corporation in the world I am regarded as being less qualified than a graduate (Thai or farang) with a Mickey Mouse degree.

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Thais with medical science degrees work hard and are generally very good. Some people I know with Master's degrees and PhDs are also very bright. But as I said above, a Bachelor's degree is the minimum qualification in Thailand.

Provided a student's family can afford it, the student will leave high school and go straight to university as a matter of course. If the student isn't very bright there are plenty of degrees catering for students who aren't very bright, such as Travel and Tourism, etc.

Therefore, to be regarded as less qualified than someone like this is quite insulting.

Statistically, air travel is still the safest form of transport. Even so, in light of recent events, I am approaching my flight to Bangkok on Monday with just a little trepidation.

After MH370, MH17 and the crash in Taiwan, yet another passenger jet has just disappeared from the radar.

Algeria airliner missing on Sahara route from Burkina Faso

Due to my favoured carrier, Nok Air, not having a flight at the time I require I am flying with AirAsia, which is a Malaysian airline. I just hope that the pilot isn't having a bad day. As far as I know, we won't be flying over any war zones therefore surface to air missiles shouldn't be a problem.

All of a sudden, those dangerous Thai minivans are looking a lot more attractive.

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Tuesday 22nd July 2014

Yet another young child has died in Thailand after being left in an unventilated vehicle. The story is very familiar. A driver is hired to take children to school, one of the children falls asleep, the driver doesn't notice, locks the vehicle, and the child dies.

You wouldn't think it would be too much of a problem for the driver to perform a quick check to make sure there were no sleeping children left in the vehicle, but this kind of thing happens fairly frequently in Thailand.

The morning rush hour is crazy and it is mostly made up of parents taking their kids to school. During school holidays the traffic is noticeably lighter. It would make a lot of sense for children to travel to school in vans and buses in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

However, with such irresponsible people driving buses, vans and trucks you can't blame parents for driving themselves. This is what I do because I wouldn't trust a Thai driver. My wife told me that the drivers sometimes drop children off on the wrong side of the road so that very young children have to cross busy, dangerous roads by themselves.

4-year-old left in hot truck dies

In Thailand in recent years several children have died as a result of being left in locked vehicles. Thailand is a hot country and vehicle interiors become extremely hot. Apparently, this is also a big problem in the States where it happens on average 38 times a year.

Hot car deaths: The children left behind

Sometimes it is due to negligence, but not always. With my own kids, it is sometimes tempting to leave them in the car for a few minutes instead of messing around with getting them in and out of car seats.

The BBC report says that the temperature inside a car can rise by 10°C in just 10 minutes. Furthermore, it says that human organs are at risk when the temperature reaches 40°C and that children's bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adults'.

Even though I have acclimatised to the weather in Thailand after living in the country for 11 years, I still suffer during very hot spells. My limit seems to be about 35°C. Above this temperature my skin starts to get very itchy and I start to feel generally unwell. This is when I retreat to air-conditioned rooms.

As I write, on what seems like a relatively cool day, it is over 33°C. The temperature doesn't get a lot cooler than this, apart from when it rains heavily, and in the hot season it gets a lot hotter. This means that leaving children in unventilated cars at any time of year, even for short periods, can be very dangerous.

I lost my temper this morning.

Getting angry with morons on Thai roads happens quite frequently, but it is very rare for me to lose my temper if I'm not driving. In fact, I can't even remember the last time it happened.

We still have no water and I when I was told on Sunday that the water could be back on Tuesday I knew that wouldn't be the case. Today I was told, "Maybe tomorrow," but that won't be the case, either.

Thais don't like telling people things that they don't want to hear. Instead, they try to make things sound better than they are. "Maybe tomorrow," sounds better than, "Next week," but at the rate they are making progress I don't expect to have any water for several more days. If I ask tomorrow I expect that I will get the same answer: "Maybe tomorrow."

I was going to fill my water containers again yesterday evening, but some local municipality workers were using the standpipe to refill their water truck. I therefore waited until this morning.

When I went to use the standpipe this morning, I couldn't. There was a down pipe, but the guys on the water truck must have had difficulty using it. They ripped it off, breaking all the joints in the process, and threw it on the ground. This enabled them to fill their truck, but rendered the standpipe useless to all other people.

Both my patience and my physical strength are almost exhausted. In the last few days I have carried over 2,000 litres of water to keep my tank full and I feel tired. This morning's little episode was the final straw and I needed to let off some steam.

Many years ago an English friend of mine who has lived in Thailand for a long time told me that Thais always take the path of least resistance. It's very true. If there is a proper way of doing something that will require a little time and effort, or a quick and easy way, Thais will always take the latter option.

This, of course, is another huge generalisation and it doesn't apply to every single Thai in the country, but it applies to quite a few.

I have seen many examples of this over the years, especially with workmen who have come to do jobs at my house. I would not like to be watched all the time while working, but with most Thai workmen I watch them constantly to make sure they are doing things the right way.

Some are excellent workers, but many will take all kinds of shortcuts to make the job quicker and easier. They don't care how ugly their work looks, what problems might occur later, or how their poor workmanship will affect other people.

Cables are a classic example, and the way that Thais install cables can be seen all over the country. They make no attempt to hide cables and as long as the connection is made they seem to think it is acceptable.

One of the guys that installed our air conditioning obviously couldn't be bothered to ask a colleague to help him lift the compressor units. The easy option was just to drag them over the floor tiles, thereby scratching all the tiles. I have observed this kind of thing on many occasions - the path of least resistance.

In a society where there is no culture of accountability and responsibility, it follows that there will be no culture of compensation. When Thais screw up it never even crosses their mind to compensate anyone. If no one is responsible or accountable it means that there won't be anyone who is expected to offer compensation when things go wrong.

When I suffered a seven hour delay on an Air Asia flight I received a free Bt30 plate of rice. That was it. There have been other occasions when Thais have screwed up and even though they may be very apologetic there is never any thought of actually offering any compensation.

Some Singaporean friends visited a year or two ago and I took them to a restaurant that serves pretty good Thai food because that is what they wanted to eat. One of them found some hair in the fried rice. And then some more. It wasn't individual strands of hair, but big clumps of hair.

I called the owner over. I've known her for a long time, but I also know that she is incredibly stingy. She has a very high turnover of wait staff because she pays such low wages.

Her reaction was simply to pull the hair out of the rice and smile inanely as if to say, "There, everything's OK now." She then walked off.

If this happened in many other countries the whole meal would be free. She could at least have changed the rice or given us a discount, but nothing. She might have thought that she was saving money, but I have never been back since and I no longer recommend this place. It has cost her money.

The Bangkok hotel where we stayed recently offered no welcome drink when we arrived and then kept us waiting over an hour while the room was being made up. We had two small kids and my wife was getting thirsty. I had to browbeat the staff into offering us a complimentary drink. This shouldn't have been necessary, but had I not said anything they wouldn't have given us any drinks.

My UK bank screwed up a few years ago. I gave them instructions not to send replacement debit or credit cards to my UK address, but to send them to me in Thailand using a courier service and that I would pay the £25 courier fee. They then sent a card to my UK address.

I contacted them and told them what had happened. They checked their records and realised that they had screwed up. They cancelled the card and sent me another replacement. They didn't charge me for the courier fee and then they credited my account with £100 to say sorry. This was completely unnecessary, but it shows the difference in attitudes between Thailand and other countries.

I recommend my bank to other people and organisations that actually look after their customers and give good service gain in the long run. This is a lesson still to be learnt in Thailand.

Apart from a Bt30 bowl of rice, I have never received a single Baht in compensation when Thais screw up. This water farce has cost me about Bt5,000 so far. I've had to buy water, pay for laundry, and buy a tank to store rain water for my Koi carp. It has also cost me a lot of time.

Naturally, I haven't been offered any compensation, and when the time comes around later this year to pay my service charge for managing the housing development they will come hammering on the door for their money. When it comes to money in Thailand, there is a lot of take and very little give.

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Sunday 20th July 2014

Water tower - Click for larger image One of the golden rules when doing this kind of thing is to make updates frequently and often. Nowadays, I break this rule constantly because I very rarely have any free time. Some reasons for this are unavoidable, but other demands on my time could be avoided.

I have spent the best part of this weekend shuttling back and forth between my house and a nearby water standpipe filling containers with water and then emptying them into my water tank. As a result, every muscle in my body aches. The events of this week have been quite farcical. Observing this kind of thing in Thailand is usually quite amusing, had it not been for the fact that trying to take care of a young family with no water in the house isn't amusing at all.

The water supply in our housing development worked (past tense) very well. Water was pumped up from underground aquifers and stored in a tall water tower from where it was distributed to individual houses. The system was efficient and reliable, the water tasted good, and not only did my Koi carp thrive, but they actually bred as well.

Dug up pavements - Click for larger image A few weeks ago some workers started digging up the pavement and when I asked what they were doing they said they were carrying out a repair to a water pipe. Fine.

But then they started digging up the pavement on every corner. The development is still quite new, but as more and more people had started to move in and plant trees it was beginning to look a lot better. Now, however, with huge, gaping holes all along the sidewalks it looks like the Gaza Strip on a bad day. There was worse to come.

When I enquired as to what was happening I found out they are changing from well water to water supplied by the local water authority. I don't know why. Perhaps the developer, who now manages the development, doesn't want the cost and responsibility of maintaining the water supply?

There then started to be interruptions to the water supply. At first they cut the water off at 8am and turned it back on at 5pm. This was acceptable because we have a 1,500 litre tank and had plenty of water during the daytime, even for doing laundry.

Mechanical digger - Click for larger image However, around Thursday (maybe before) the supply went off permanently. I should also mention at this point that no one has communicated any of this officially to us at all. The only information we have received has come during casual conversations with our neighbours.

On Friday our tank was less than half full and I told my wife to go easy with using water. By Saturday morning the tank was empty. I didn't know what would happen next and I have learnt never to rely on other people in Thailand so I took matters in to my own hands.

I bought seven 20 litre containers of water for Bt12 each and emptied these into the tank. Seven was the number I could fit comfortably in the back of the car without folding the rear seats back. They weigh 20kg each and I would struggle handling anything bigger. I then refilled the containers myself using a standpipe at the front of the development and continued to fill my water tank. I repeated this operation several times yesterday, again this morning, and again this evening to keep the tank topped up.

Our neighbour's husband is a colonel in the Thai army and he asked his mates at the local army barracks to send a water truck to his house. They turned up later in the day, as did the fire brigade and a water truck from the local municipality. My tank was already full so I didn't require any assistance. If I had known that assistance was on its way it would have saved me a lot of effort but, of course, no one told me anything.

Army water truck - Click for larger image We still have no mains water supply to the house and despite some half-hearted assurances that it will come back on Tuesday, my suspicion (based on my experience of living in Thailand for several years) is that it will be several days later. Thais have a different concept of time to most other people and one Thai hour is roughly equivalent to six Earth hours.

Some things are very good in Thailand and other things are getting better. For example, the organisation and logistics required to keep a large hospital running efficiently are mind-boggling, but the Thais do this very well all over the country.

On the other hand, this relatively small, relatively simple project has been a nightmare. It has been badly planned, badly managed, badly executed, badly coordinated, and badly communicated.

They could at least have told people when the water would be cut off so that residents could store some extra water beforehand. The first communication we received came yesterday after our tank was empty. Every resident has to pass the security guards' hut and therefore just a simple sign stuck on the side of the hut would have sufficed, but apparently they didn't feel it was necessary to tell anyone.

A big problem in Thailand seems to be that no one wants to be held responsible or accountable for anything. Whoever decided to do this didn't want the responsibility and just handed it over to the water authority. The water authority workers just regard it as another job and they aren't concerned that over 70 houses have no water. The result is that no one is responsible or accountable.

Ford water truck - Click for larger image The workers sit around having long lunches, they go home at a normal time, and I haven't seen any today so I assume that they still get Sundays off. Some things in Thailand are improving, but there are still plenty of reminders of the old habits and work practices.

I will have to return the 20 litre water containers at some stage, but until the mains water returns I am hanging on to them because I suspect that I will have to manually fill the tank several more times.

Not only have I suffered a lot of inconvenience and been forced into doing a lot of heavy lifting, but this change will also cost me money. The new water supply will be chlorinated and I don't want to subject my fish to chlorine. I will therefore have to buy another water tank and modify the guttering so that I can save rain water with which to top up the fish pond.

It's not an ideal situation, but this is Thailand.

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Tuesday 15th July 2014

No more visa runs

A supposed crackdown happened in 2006, but shortly afterwards I met foreigners who were still living permanently in Thailand on a combination of tourist visas and 30-day border stamps. That particular crackdown only lasted a matter of weeks, but this one looks to be a lot more permanent.

This is an issue that gets many farangs hot under the collar, but why should Thailand be any different to other countries? Just because a loophole has been exploited for many years doesn't make it right and it doesn't mean that the loophole will never be closed.

Every country has immigration rules and Thailand is no exception. No one has the right to live wherever they want. I can't just move to the States, and that applies to many other countries. Australia has a points system and at my age with no desirable up-to-date work skills I couldn't get a visa to live there. Only certain types of people with specific skills are accepted.

It is the same in Thailand. Genuine tourists are, and always will be, very welcome. If you want to work as an English teacher or dive instructor you can get an appropriate visa and work permit. If you want to retire and are over 50 and can show Bt800,000 in a Thai bank account, or have an income of Bt65,000 per month, you can get a retirement visa.

If you marry a Thai and can meet the financial requirements you can get a marriage visa. If you want to study or ordain as a monk you can get a visa. There are many ways you can live legitimately in Thailand.

The difference between Thailand and other countries is that law enforcement is weak and for many years people have been exploiting a loophole in the immigration system to live in Thailand permanently by using processes intended for short term tourists.

They know it's a loophole and they know it's wrong, even though technically it isn't illegal. I remember quite vividly having conversations with foreigners in early 2004 about this particular loophole being closed. Now that it is being closed, instead of being grateful that the loophole was left open for so long they are angry because it is being closed.

There are lots of arguments and counter arguments. What if someone wants to live in Thailand who is financially independent, doesn't want to work as an English teacher, is not married to a Thai, and is under 50? Many people can work on-line and their physical location isn't important. Someone like this living in Thailand wouldn't be a burden to the country and would only bring money into the economy.

This argument could be applied to the States or Australia or anywhere else. The bottom line is that no one has the right to live in another country and unless they can meet the country's immigration requirements they won't be able to get a visa. At the moment there is no option for this category of person.

You can argue that Thailand should do this and Thailand should do that, and that this is wrong and that is wrong, but it's an irrelevant argument because only the current immigration rules apply.

As a consequence of having such weak immigration laws, and being the country it is, Thailand also attracts a lot of highly undesirable farangs. I know because over the years I have been unfortunate enough to meet some of them. This crackdown should hopefully get rid of quite a few.

If you want to spend a few weeks on vacation in Thailand as a genuine tourist, no problem. If you want to live in Thailand on a more permanent basis you will need to get an appropriate visa. That has always been the case, but up until now it has been easy to skirt around the rules. Everything has now changed.

Land borders in the south have already implemented the new rules and immigration officials have been preventing certain categories of people from reentering Thailand from Malaysia. These people are being told to travel to Kuala Lumpur and then to fly into Thailand. However, that won't be an option after 13th August when immigration at airports in Thailand will also implement the new rules.

In due course, border posts in other parts of Thailand will also start doing the same thing.

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Monday 14th July 2014

Used bicycles about to go across the river from Thailand to Burma - Click for larger image Some years ago, I was talking to a guy in a shop that sold car audio and GPS systems, etc, about the theft of such items in Thailand. He told me not to worry because Thai thieves aren't interested in stealing parts of cars; they are only interested in stealing complete cars.

He told me that they steal to order and that the cars normally leave the country very quickly. Thailand has land borders with Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Cambodia and it is easy to get cars out of the country one way or the other.

Workers arriving from Burma to work in Thai factories - Click for larger image When I was in Mae Sot I saw an incredible amount of goods going across the river from Thailand to Burma. There were bicycles, cars, car parts, and most everything else. I don't know how much was legal and how much was illegal, but I have my suspicions.

As goods went across to Burma, Burmese workers were coming the other way on large inner tubes to work in factories set up on the Thai side of border producing cheap clothes. They work for less salary than Thai workers and I was told that the factories are illegal.

The man in the shop gave me further reassurance by telling me that my old Ford wouldn't be on the wishlist of Thai car thieves. In this region, Thais and other Southeast Asians love their pickup trucks and pickup truck based SUVs, such as Toyota Fortuners. These are the vehicles that top the list.

Stealing cars to order is still an issue, and this is yet another problem that the Thai authorities are trying to stop. I have to say that I am quite impressed with with how many social problems the current military government is trying to fix. They seem to be going after everyone who makes a living illegally and with the huge number of people in Thailand who make a living illegally this is a daunting task.

Police hunt car theft kingpins

In recent years, car manufacturers have made cars a lot more secure and some models now are almost impossible to steal. The manufacturers might be able to stay ahead of the game for a little while, but then the criminals catch up.

A friend of my wife's warned her last week about carwash services copying keys. Where I live there none of the automated carwashes that I used to use occasionally in the UK, however, there are loads of places where you can get your car washed by hand.

I used to use them a lot, but basically because where we lived before I had to stand in the road to wash my car and it was quite frightening with so many pickup trucks and motorbikes racing past at high speed.

Since living in my current house, where it is quiet and where we have a driveway, I have been washing my car myself. The last time I went used a car washing service was a few months ago when I had a broken tendon and a splint around my finger.

The usual procedure is to drive in, give them your keys, and then go to do something else before collecting your shiny car. Of course, leaving them your keys involves a certain amount of trust. They can drive your car somewhere, or make a copy of the key to steal the car later.

When my wife told me about this I told her that it wasn't possible with cars like mine that have a chip inside the key. However, while I was getting my shoes repaired, which is also where there are a lot of key-cutting services, I saw a sign advertsing a service to copy chips. Apparently, they have the electronic hardware to be able to copy chips.

This service is something I might use myself. I have one key for my car and wanted a copy, however, the Ford service centre said it would cost around Bt9,000. This kind of thing is a big benefit for legal owners wanting spare keys, but it also makes life easier for Thailand's car thieves.

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Sunday 13th July 2014

This is very interesting.

Illegal shops face demolition

Wheelchair in Thailand - Click for larger image Thais have some very strange attitudes towards land that doesn't have an obvious owner. As far as they are concerned the land belongs to no one, in which case it can be used to dump old mattresses and all other kinds of rubbish, or it belongs to everyone, in which case it can be 'claimed' for personal use.

A few weeks ago, for the first time in almost 11 years, I saw someone trying to push an elderly relative in a wheelchair. Wheelchairs and baby strollers are things that you see very rarely because all of the sidewalks have been 'claimed' and blocked. The only way is to walk in the road, and roads aren't exactly the safest places in Thailand.

Ramshackle restaurant built on claimed land - Click for larger image The military government is clamping down on all sorts of illegal activity in Thailand and if they are now starting to reclaim land that is being used illegally, how far will they go?

Where I live, as is the case all over Thailand, shopkeepers and houseowners block the sidewalks in front of their shops and houses for their own use, and thus pedestrians can't pass. Shopkeepers extend their premises at the front of the shop using land that doesn't belong to them.

Illegally claimed parking space - Click for larger image They even do this with roads and use various objects to 'reserve' parking spaces outside their shops and houses that don't belong to them.

What should happen is that the local municipality should remove all the paraphenalia and reclaim the sidewalks. But they don't, which is typical of the weak law enforcement that exists in Thailand.

However, now that the military government is taking a much stronger approach with this kind of problem, will anything change?

Typical Thai sidewalk - Click for larger image My gut feeling, having lived in Thailand for a number of years never having seen any change, is that nothing will change. On the other hand, a situation such as exists at present has never existed while I have been living in Thailand.

Now that ineffective, self-serving politicians are no longer running the country, but the people now in charge seem to have both the will and the strength to make the many changes that are necessary in Thailand, it's very interesting to see what will happen.

Do they really have the resolve to force Thais to change their ways, or after a while will everything just revert to how it was? Only time will tell.

Up until fairly recently I never believed I would see the changes in Thailand that are taking place at the moment. Now that change is starting to take place, I'm still not sure I believe that the attempts at change will be effective or long lasting. I hope for both.

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Friday 11th July 2014

Ten years ago I booked a flight to Bangkok with AirAsia. The outbound flight was fine, but there was a seven hour delay on the return journey. Instead of arriving home in the evening at a comfortable time for a spot of dinner and bed, I got home in the early hours of the morning, slept for a couple of hours, and then had to get up for work. It wasn't much fun.

AirAsia gave passengers a meal voucher, but there was no apology or further compensation. I vowed never to use AirAsia again and I never have.

About an hour ago, ten years after my first and only flight with AirAsia, I booked my second. For my daughter's next hospital appointment in Bangkok I will take her alone and we shall do it in one day, rather than staying at a hotel for a few days in Bangkok as we usually do.

My preferred airline for domestic flights in Thailand is Nok Air. I have never had a problem with Nok and recommend them highly, however, their last flight back is at 6pm and I am afraid that I might not be able to get to the airport in time from the hospital. The last AirAsia flight is at 8pm, which gives me a little more breathing space.

Without even getting anywhere near an AirAsia plane their on-line booking process has already annoyed me. The initial fare looks super cheap, but all the time the total fare keeps going up as they keep opting passengers in for services that the passengers probably don't want.

I won't be checking any luggage so I had to remove the chargeable luggage allowance options that they applied to my booking. I then had to do the same for their insurance. Next, they wanted to reserve a seat, which is charged for, and then they wanted me to select a meal option, which is also charged for.

I was waiting for them to ask me whether I wanted to use the onboard toilet and how many pieces of toilet paper I wished to use - all charged for, of course.

The same guy, Tony Fernandes, that runs AirAsia runs the Tune chain of hotels and the pricing structure for Tune hotels uses the budget airline model. The basic price gets you very little and every single little extra is charged for. This might suit some people who are looking to keeps costs down as low as possible, but it can be quite annoying.

Singaporean friends of mine stayed at the Tune hotel in Hat Yai and the A/C went off in the middle of the night, thus making the room very hot. My friend had to get dressed and go down to reception to pay for them to turn on the A/C again. They won't be staying there again.

I know people who swear by AirAsia and I will give them a second chance. I will detail my experience at the end of the month. I am really disappointed that Nok Air doesn't have a later flight. If the AirAsia experience is acceptable I will use them again. Otherwise, I will look at the other airlines who service this route.

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Blog entries 1st to 10th July 2014


Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia. used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand